Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales.
Curlew, known as gylfinir in Welsh, is an iconic bird that is referenced frequently throughout Welsh theology, culture and heritage and with its distinctive bubbling and haunting call is often greeted as the herald of spring by rural communities across upland and lowland Wales. As a child, Curlew were a regular presence on our farm - something we simply took for granted - but this herald of spring is now in steep decline with the population falling by 6% every year and it is now considered to be Wales’ most pressing avian conservation priority. If we do not act now to reverse this decline the Curlew is predicted to be on the verge of extinction as a breeding species in Wales in the next decade. Urgent action is needed to save Wales’ remaining Curlew and enable them to build a sustainable population so that our children and grandchildren are as familiar with these magnificent birds as we once were.
Curlews are one of those iconic conservation challenges, and one which engages people across Wales. One striking feature of the conservation world is its massive dependence on volunteers and ‘citizen science’ and the more of this we can encourage the better our chances to make a difference. Perhaps the most important and encouraging sign for Curlews in Wales is the numbers of people recognising their plight, and the way in which professionals and volunteers are working together to conserve the species and their habitats.
I am especially pleased that since the successful Welsh Curlew Conference, that we jointly organised with the UK Curlew Champion - Mary Colwell, held in Builth Wells in January 2018, Welsh expertise through the partnership of Gylfinir Cymru / Culrew Wales is now helping to assess and set the priorities and strategic direction for Curlew recovery in Wales. I certainly do not think that any single measure or action or organisation is going to succeed in isolation in halting the decline of Curlew in Wales when the challenges are many and, in some cases, very complex. Success will require a clear plan of action, collaboration, and significant investment. But there seems to be a large number of committed organisations and individuals that collectively are willing to do as much as possible and as soon as possible to help.
We have ten years to bring back Curlew from the edge of extinction. I sincerely hope that this Action Plan will build on the good work to date and encourage people across Wales to get involved and work together to enable this important bird to flourish in our landscape once more. Earlier this year a Curlew flew over my car. I was so excited I nearly ended up in the ditch. In the future it would be nice to think that such an occurrence would, once again, be commonplace.